Morton High School officially sends off more than 200 graduates

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MORTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200 Morton High School students had the chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.

The high school held an in-person graduation ceremony Saturday morning at Carper Field.

Deidre Ripka, principal of Morton High School, said the students have lost out on so many traditions this year and she’s glad the school’s staff was able to send them off with a ceremony.

“It was just a wonderful day to honor our graduates and thank their families for all of the support they had,” Ripka said. “They grieved a little bit, they healed a little bit and now it’s time to celebrate.”

Ripka said safety was always a priority when planning the ceremony. She said, apart from cleaning and sanitizing, they organized the event to ensure the safety of all who attended.

“We printed and distributed tickets so we were at about 20 percent capacity in our stadium,” Ripka said. “The parents in the bleachers were socially distanced. We had kids lined up alphabetically in pods of 50.”

Sam Lange, one of the graduates, said he’s happy to be adding walking across the graduation stage to the list of accomplishments he done this year such as breaking a 60-year-old track record and being named the Peoria area’s first ESPY Award winner.

He said going forward he wants to set even higher goals for himself.

“I want to go sub-four in the mile in college, that’s what I want to do,” Lange said. “I think that’ll be cool. That was one of the first big records for the whole world to try and go sub-four so I want to be one of those dudes that went under four.”

Ripka said as the graduates close this chapter in their lives and begin a new one, she wanted to send them off with some words of encouragement.

“I challenge them to lose sight of shore, to be a little bit uncomfortable with where they’re going and be okay with it and to do something brave,” Ripka said. “I’m so excited for their future and they’ve really grown and been resilient much more than any other graduating class we’ve seen.”

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